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Retiring Foo

When we moved into our current home, we had the place wired for ethernet.  The state of the art for WiFi at the time was 802.11b – 10 Mb/s, short range.  I had ethernet cabled everywhere, and then used WiFi for devices that were better mobile – laptop computers initially, and later mobile phones, music players, and so on.

For the last 6 years there have always been two hotspots – one in the basement in the wiring closet (Saunders), and one placed on the main floor family room (Foo).  This was to achieve coverage, primarily.  The basement is not a great location for your primary router, but that’s where the whole house is cabled from.

Foo is a 2002 vintage Dell TrueMobile 1184 – slow 10Mb/s 802.11b, and no wireless G.  I retired it yesterday, after upgrading an aging Linksys WRT54GS router using the excellent DD-WRT firmwareDD-WRT is an open source project which allows you to take a commodity, consumer grade router (like the very common Linksys router I have), and reflash it with software much more akin to a high end commercial wireless router.

What can you do with a router equipped with DD-WRT? Run a commercial hotspot, a WiFi VPN server, a bridge, or a mesh network, to name just a few.  And in my case, boost the power of the transmitters.  The software allows you to adjust the power anywhere from Linksys default of 70 mW up to 240mW, or down.  I chose 84mW, which with the 2.2 dBi of antenna gain that the Linksys “rubber ducky” antenna is rated for comes well within the maximum legal limit of 100mW.

14mW of extra power, and now my coverage is good everywhere in the house.

So before you rush out and buy an 802.11n router (as I had), check out DD-WRT.  The upgrade was painless, and the results are exactly what I had hoped for.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • ColtonCat July 23, 2009, 7:44 pm

    I usually do the same thing at my place of work with the WRT-54Gx (bear in mind that Linksys value engineers had at this thing past version 4, and reduced that amount of flash memory etc. in it, so ironically the newer ones cannot run the full-featured versions of DD-WRT or Tomato and friends – subsequent to that the Linksys marketing types – or would that be Cisco’s marketing types – realised that they now had an opportunity to make some money, so they started to sell the older version under the moniker of the WRT54GL and tagging it “Linux Compatible”).

    If you are considering doing this yourself, you thusly should check the bottom of any WRT-54Gx that you intend to use and make sure that it is a version prior to 5, or shell out for the WRT54GL.

    As for an n-version. Best Buy for a while sold the dirt-cheap WRT-150N online for under $50, and I notice you can still pick them up on Amazon for around $54. This device is physically smaller than the 54Gx and can run DD-WRT quite comfortably. In fact, if the reviews I read are accurate the Linksys/Cisco firmware on this device is quite crappy, and DD-WRT turns it into a highly capable N device.

    I have one at home configured like this, and it is rock solid.

  • ColtonCat July 23, 2009, 7:44 pm

    I usually do the same thing at my place of work with the WRT-54Gx (bear in mind that Linksys value engineers had at this thing past version 4, and reduced that amount of flash memory etc. in it, so ironically the newer ones cannot run the full-featured versions of DD-WRT or Tomato and friends – subsequent to that the Linksys marketing types – or would that be Cisco’s marketing types – realised that they now had an opportunity to make some money, so they started to sell the older version under the moniker of the WRT54GL and tagging it “Linux Compatible”).

    If you are considering doing this yourself, you thusly should check the bottom of any WRT-54Gx that you intend to use and make sure that it is a version prior to 5, or shell out for the WRT54GL.

    As for an n-version. Best Buy for a while sold the dirt-cheap WRT-150N online for under $50, and I notice you can still pick them up on Amazon for around $54. This device is physically smaller than the 54Gx and can run DD-WRT quite comfortably. In fact, if the reviews I read are accurate the Linksys/Cisco firmware on this device is quite crappy, and DD-WRT turns it into a highly capable N device.

    I have one at home configured like this, and it is rock solid.

  • Kiran July 24, 2009, 1:47 am

    I recently did something very similar. I bought a N router (had a wrt54GL) that I just got bored of. Upgraded the firmware of the 54GL to DD-WRT – setup a repeater bridge that now extends the network in my house to all corners. BUT I had some problems with the range on the N router – so essentially had to make the 54GL one as the primary router – after boosting the transmit power to 84 mW.
    I'm very impressed with the DD-WRT firmware – kicking myself for not upgrading earlier…

  • Kiran July 24, 2009, 5:47 am

    I recently did something very similar. I bought a N router (had a wrt54GL) that I just got bored of. Upgraded the firmware of the 54GL to DD-WRT – setup a repeater bridge that now extends the network in my house to all corners. BUT I had some problems with the range on the N router – so essentially had to make the 54GL one as the primary router – after boosting the transmit power to 84 mW.
    I’m very impressed with the DD-WRT firmware – kicking myself for not upgrading earlier…

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